“Adjustment of status” refers to the process by which an alien already in the United States may apply for status as a lawful permanent resident without leaving the United States.
Section 245 of the INA (Immigration & Nationality Act) is the statute that governs this process.
Adjustment of status should be distinguished from “change of status,” which generally applies to nonimmigrants switching from one nonimmigrant status to another.
Aliens admitted to the United States in a nonimmigrant, refugee, or parolee category may have their status changed to that of lawful permanent resident if they are eligible to receive an immigrant visa and one is immediately available.
In October 1994, section 245(i) of the INA was enacted. This allowed certain alien residents (who entered without inspection or overstayed their period of authorized stay) but who were otherwise eligible for immigrant status to remain in the United States and adjust to permanent resident status by paying an additional penalty fee. Section 245(i) is no longer available unless the alien is the beneficiary of an application for labor certification or a preference petition (under section 204 of the Immigration & Nationality Act) filed on or before April 30, 2001.
In the context of removal proceedings, an application for adjustment of status may be used as a defense against removal. Other common defenses against removal in immigration court are applications for asylum, withholding of removal, cancellation of removal, and voluntary departure.